Disney may have just released its latest animated movie, “Finding Dory,” but what scientists are really trying to do is save Dory.
Conservationists are concerned the movie’s popularity may lead to an increase in demand for blue tangs (the type of fish Dory is). There’s a number of reasons that’s just not good for the fish.
Blue tangs do not breed in captivity, and the increase in demand would require they be taken from their natural habitat. The species’ potential popularity could result in a decrease in population if and when these fish start being harvested in large amounts.
The concern isn’t just scientists being paranoid. This has happened before.
After “Finding Nemo” premiered, the demand for clownfish (the kind of fish Nemo is) surged by 40%.
People fell in love with the titular character and wanted to get a Nemo of their own as a pet.
The demand for clownfish was so high that it led to massive harvesting in the Philippines and Indonesia. The orange and white striped fish everyone was falling in love with on the big screen was being plucked from its natural habitat to become a domestic pet.
Unfortunately, movies have proven time and time again to be incredibly influential when it comes to pet trends.
After the premiere of each Harry Potter film, there was an increased demand for pet owls.
Many “Potterheads” ran out and got themselves a pet owl — because Harry Potter. The problem was that people didn’t realize owls don’t smell so nice, they tend to have sharp claws, and they pack quite a bite. The North Wales Owl Sanctuary says about 90% of the owls were captive-bred, meaning they were taken from their parents as eggs.
After “101 Dalmatians” hit theaters in 1996, the demand for the adorably unique black and white spotted breed skyrocketed.
Former Dalmatian owners say the breed is not particularly kid-friendly. They are high-energy and requite a lot of exercise. Animal shelters around the U.S. saw a significant increase in unwanted Dalmatians that had been given to kids for Christmas the year Disney released the remake.
Due to the popularity of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, there was also an increase in demand for pet turtles.
When parents obliged their kids’ pleas for a pet turtle, they didn’t realize they often carry salmonella. The CDC reports hundreds of people (most of them kids) got sick.
Turtles don’t smell so nice, either. After the first TMNT film’s release in 1990, the American Tortoise Rescue estimates that thousands of pet turtles died, either abandoned, flushed down the toilet, or deliberately killed in other ways.
It’s one thing to admire your favorite character on screen, but kids — and parents — should know that not every animal makes a good pet.
If kids want to take Dory or Nemo home with them after seeing “Finding Dory” or “Finding Nemo,” it’s important for them to know that they could be hurting the animal rather than saving it.
The Saving Nemo Foundation was established to educate people about “ornamental” marine species. It also breeds clownfish safely in captivity to try to lessen the demand for mass harvesting.
And conservationists are working to repopulate areas where clownfish are now extinct.
The best way to show your appreciation for Nemo is to think of him as a friendly reminder that fish like him want and need to be in their homes, swimming free in the ocean.
Just like Nemo does in the movie.
Check out this video from National Geographic about the Dory fish: